Tap into Chicago summer vibes with these iPhone apps

Smartphones are basically personal computers that can be carried around in our pockets. This means we don’t have to be inside and chained to a desk to enjoy their benefits. Explore Chicago’s outdoor destinations with these great iPhone apps.

Dialing up destinations on the cheap

We all know that Millennium Park and Oak Street Beach are great places to enjoy a Chicago summer day without spending a dime. But what about other free or very cheap activities off the beaten path?

For my money ($1.99), Free & Frugal Chicago is the best iPhone app for discovering hidden Chicago gems. Curated by Chicago-based travel writer Karla Zimmerman, Free & Frugal Chicago publishes links to neighborhood audio tours that showcase everything from Chicago blues legends to attractions best enjoyed by small children. The app also features things like schedules for free cooking lessons at Chicago’s Downtown Farmstand, directions to the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool in Lincoln Park, and a comprehensive guide to Chicago’s summer festivals.

Closer to home

Want to find out what’s going on right now in your neighborhood? Check out the free EveryBlock iPhone app to get “hyperlocal” news and information for virtually every pocket of Chicago. Created and run out of Chicago (the company was acquired by MSNBC two years ago), EveryBlock aggregates and publishes detailed information ranging from reviews of a new beer garden to police reports of aggravated assault.

You see, the iPhone will even inform you of places not to go! If you are a crime blotter junkie and can’t get enough of cop talk, you can also pay $1.99 for Police Radio Chicago. The app provides live audio feeds of 13 police dispatch zones.

Getting around town

If you have a car but want to avoid the buzzkill of high parking costs and nasty traffic jams, make sure your iPhone is riding in the shotgun seat.

For less than the price of an hour at a parking meter, the $1.99 Chicago Parking app provides real-time pricing information for more than 300 local parking garages. The app also provides a listing of “Early Bird” specials, CTA information, and even an alarm notification right before your meter is about to expire.

Want to find out how congested the ride will be to Garfield Park or the Museum of Science and Industry? While MotionXGPS Drive ($0.99) and Waze GPS & traffic (free) are the most popular and reliable iPhone apps that offer live traffic information, MultiCam Chicago ($1.99) allows you to literally see traffic patterns with cameras maintained by the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Android options

The iPhone of course is not the only smart device in town that will help you get around town this summer. Among the best Android apps to explore the Chicago summer are ChicagoWay- Everything Chicago and Chicago Travel Guide Triposo. Both free apps serve as one-stop-shopping resources for summer fun.

While there is an unofficial Android app client for Everyblock, the best way to access the service from Android and other mobile devices is via its mobile site.

This article originally appeared in the INC.WELL blog on NBC Chicago.

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